From the Huffington Post:
Senior Roman Catholic and Lutheran officials announced on Monday they
would mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 as a shared
event rather than highlight the clash that split Western Christianity.
Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) presented a report in
Geneva admitting both were guilty of harming Christian unity in the
past and describing a growing consensus between the two churches in
The 500th anniversary of Martin
Luther's 95 Theses, the doctrinal challenge that launched the
Protestant Reformation, will be the first centenary celebration in the
age of ecumenism, globalisation and the secularisation of Western
"The awareness is dawning on Lutherans
and Catholics that the struggle of the 16th century is over," the
report said. "The reasons for mutually condemning each other's faith
have fallen by the wayside."
They now agree
belief in Jesus unites them despite lingering differences, it said,
and inspires them to cooperate more closely to proclaim the Gospel in
increasingly pluralistic societies.
"This is a
very important step in a healing process which we all need and we are
all praying for," LWF General Secretary Martin Junge said at the
report's presentation in Geneva.
"The division of
the church is something we cannot celebrate but we can see what is
positive and try to find ways towards the future together," said
Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican's department to promote
For the life of me I cannot understand either the LWF seeking Rome's participation in the 500th anniversary of the Reformation or Rome's desire to minimize the differences. This is false ecumenism. It will reap no lasting rewards.
We have a history of glossing over differences when we want to and generally this leads to disappointment and a unity which is in word only. If the Reformation deserves anything, it deserves an honest appraisal of the claims made in the sixteenth century, the counterclaims of Rome, and whether the situation today is sufficiently different to change the relationship.
Let me say unequivocally that I believe that Lutheranism and Rome are kissing cousins and stand seemingly together in the face of a liberal Protestantism that isn't sure what it believes and an evangelicalism devoid of God's presence except in feeling. However, that said, the integrity of both sides requires that we face the differences honestly and openly and not paper over them for the sake of an anniversary.
I long for the day when Rome will repent of its errors and name the Augustana as a catholic confession. I long for the day when Lutherans in name only will have enough integrity to be the Church they confess to be in their Concordia. I long for the day when characterizations and vitriol can be replaced by honest theological dialogue. I believe that Lutherans will have some apologizing to do as well (less so for the Confessions than for things written and said in the name of Lutheranism outside those Confessions). Nothing could be better than a true unity of confession, built upon the Scriptures, faithful to the catholic tradition, maintaining the careful distinction between Law and Gospel. There is more work ahead of us than just meetings of the leadership. In parish and practice both Rome and Wittenberg will have to live up to their positions and that will require internal reform as well. At this point I see too much on Rome's plate to see this happen effectively from their point of view and a fractured Lutheranism that offers Rome a less than authentic dialogue partner. So a little anniversary party might be nice but it is not going to get either side from here to there.
A personal note here... I fail to see how Rome thinks that the LWF is the accurate face of Lutheranism. For all of Missouri's problems and inclination to ignore Rome, Missouri remains closest in faith and practice to the confessional expression of Lutheranism. It would seem to me that both Missouri and Rome might be the best voices to begin to address the rift. Many, if not most of those involved in the Lutheran World Federation ordain women and gays and believe at best the Bible contains a few words of God among the many words of man. If I were Rome, and I am not, I could not get past this to begin talking to anyone at the level of LWF.